The Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre (Gender Centre), has challenged Community Based Action Teams (COMBAT), to change the narrative on Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG).
The Centre under the Amplify Change Project, has been providing training for COMBATs from selected communities in its four operational regions, to empower them to educate and provide support against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), and other forms of VAWG in their localities.
Ms Esther Darko-Mensah, Project Officer of the Gender Centre, at the closing ceremony of a two-week training for 34 COMBATs from nine communities in the Wenchi Municipality, said the interventions being provided by the Centre and its partners, would help reduce incidences of VAWG especially, at the community levels, and create an equal platform for all persons to develop their potentials.
She said the communities involved were Subinso, Akrobi, Beposo, Boadan, Ntoaso, Menshyia, Koase, Nkyeraa, and Amponsah krom, from where members of the COMBATs had been selected by their own community leaders based on their merits.
According to her, the passage of the Domestic Violence Act 732 in 2007, had had limited impact on the lived experiences of rural populations in Ghana.
The significant negative and social consequences of VAWG, if not addressed through evidence-based interventions, would result in far reaching consequences, not only for the individuals, but families, communities and society as a whole, she added.
Ms Darko-Mensah stated that “the socio-economic costs of VAWG could result in severe negative consequences for the country’s development,”
She said the Teams, had been equipped with knowledge in areas including equality in gender roles, harmful cultural and traditional practices like female genital mutilation, child servitude, child marriage and widowhood rites, types of violence, Will writing, as well as the existing legislations that guarded against VAWG.
She encouraged the beneficiary COMBATs, to be good ambassadors of the Gender Centre and the nation as a whole, by sharing with others the knowledge acquired and by referring all criminal cases to the appropriate authorities.
She also advised the COMBATs to be mindful of the culture and traditions of their communities during their various outreach programmes, to avoid offending the sensitivities of the people, saying, this could greatly affect the outcome of their work.
Ms Deborah Tayo Akakpo, a facilitator from the Gender Centre, explained that the current training, formed part of the third Phase of the Amplify Change Project which focused on: “Cell Phones Against Sexual Violence: Using Mobile Technology to Promote Safer Schools in the Wenchi Municipality.”
According to her, in the first two phases, the Centre placed much emphasis on engaging children on the use of mobile phones to report various forms of abuses, ensure safer schools, and provide information on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR).
However, the Centre, decided to introduce the COMBAT approach, as a rural response system to further engage parents and other adults, to build their knowledge on what constituted VAWG in order to halt such incidences.
Ms Akakpo, said a study by the University of Ghana’s School of Public Health, confirmed the effectiveness of the COMBAT approach in reduction in VAWG in some piloted communities in the Central region between 2015 and 2017 and recommended its expansion to other communities.
She said the Project, the Grantee, was however also expected to mentor a Community Based Organisation, hence a District Girl Child Officer, and a Representative of the progressive Movement for Development, an NGO, had been included in the current training to create a better synergy for effective outcomes.
Mrs Dorcas Coker-Appiah, the Executive-Director of the Gender Centre, presented certificates of participation on Legislation, Counseling and Mediation, to the COMBATs and assured them of their subsequent introduction and inauguration in their communities.
Mr Joseph Ntim, a Welder and COMBAT from Ntoase, said he had received so much knowledge especially, on what constituted gender-based violence, and equality in gender roles, and was ready to share with others in his community to effect the needed change.
Madam Salamatu Adams, the Assembly Woman of Boadan, also thanked the Gender Centre for the support, saying her community was the largest with a population of almost 8,000 people and nine polling stations, and also had the greatest number of women and children, with a high record of violence against these vulnerable group.